The 1998 season was a glorious one for Major League Baseball. It was one of the greatest that the game had ever seen. It was a campaign that saw the entire nation captivated by the home run chased between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.
It was the banner season for an all-time great in a Chicago Cubs uniform. Slammin’ Sammy hit 66 home runs that year, one of three years of at least 60. And yet, despite a career that ended as one of the greatest in the history of baseball from an offensive standpoint, Sosa’s status as a legend is up in the air, with the Hall of Fame results just over a month away.
There’s no doubt that there remains a dark cloud hanging over the career of Sammy Sosa. That’s the case with many/most first-year eligible players who came out of the “Steroid Era”. Two of his predecssors to the ballot, McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, have failed to gain even one-third of the votes necessary for Cooperstown.
Does that mean that Sosa is destined for failure as well? Quite possibly. But even though we can predict what probably will happen doesn’t neccesarily means that’s what should happen.
Unlike Barry Bonds, who joins Sosa on the 2012 ballot, Sammy was not a five-tool player for the majority of his career. What he was was an offensive powerhouse, one of the greatest that the game has ever seen.
When you talk about Sosa, you’re talking about a guy who hit at least 60 home runs three times in his career, with another season of 50 on top of that. He was a seven-time All Star, a National League MVP (and a candidate in numerous seasons), and one of only two players in the history of the National League to knock in 160 or more runs in a season.
But Sosa’s career actually went far beyond the power numbrs. He, somewhat surprisingly, swiped at least 30 bags three times in his career. He finished with 234 for his career. Everyone loves WAR. Sosa was at least a five WAR player for five different seasons, with another in which he finished with a WAR just a shade over 10. That last number is absurd.
Sosa’s final slash line when he left the game in 2007 stood at .273/.344/.534/.878. That’s some pretty impressive stuff right there, and probably better than many would expect after watching him play. Sure, the steals went down when he (allegedly) started juicing and his average dipped quite a bit toward the tail-end of his career. But there’s no denying he’s a top offensive player of all time. Look no further than his 609 career home runs for your evidence of that.
Nationally, Sammy Sosa is seen to many as a steroid user, who once used a corked bat (though over 70 were tested and no others came up with cork) and struck out way too much. On the North Side, some still remember his mysterious injuries and ugly departure from the club as his legacy. They’d prefer him left out in the cold with the likes of McGwire and Palmeiro.
But for many others, in Chicago and all over, Sammy Sosa was a contributor in bringing excitement to the game. His routine sprints to right field, his power (aided or not), and his trademark home run hope made him a fan favorite for million.
Like it or not, Sammy Sosa deserves to be enshrined at Cooperstown. Just as Barry Bonds andRoger Clemensdo. He changed the game for Cub fans. He helped to make them competitive again. He made the game more exciting for fans all over the world. Will his enshrinement happen this year? It’s a possibility, but probably not.
But no matter when he gets in, be it this year, next year, or a fwe down the road, it needs to happen. It’d be a damn shame to not add the Hall of Fame label to Sammy Sosa’s name in the very near future.